Every once in a while, Congress does something good, or tries to. Take H.R. 387, the Email Privacy Act, for instance. The proposed law would require authorities to obtain a search warrant in order to access email, data stored in the cloud, and other digital communications more than 180 days old. Under current law, the Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986, service providers must turn over personal files and information of any age when presented with an administrative subpoena. Administrative subpoenas don’t require judicial oversight.
The bill passed the House of Representatives in February but may stall in the Senate as it did in 2016, when Republican Sen. John Cornyn of Texas added several amendments to remove the bill’s teeth.
So, why is the Email Privacy Act important to email marketers? Because marketers want their customers to feel comfortable receiving emailed promotional messages. Think about it: More than 250 billion emails pass between individuals and companies daily, making email an enormous repository of all sorts of information about consumer behavior. A sales flyer can indicate the kinds of products in which an email recipient has expressed an interest. Invoices and order confirmations document the products the consumer actually bought. If you were John Q. Public and signed up for an adult entertainment mailing list online, would you want just any old person with an administrative subpoena discovering that?
Consumers are nervous when it comes to adult entertainment, and for good reason. A porn-watcher’s name dropped in the wrong place at the wrong time can do irreparable damage to his or her social standing, employment and family relationships. The Ashley Madison debacle and threats of public humiliation by copyright trolls are all too fresh for many consumers to feel comfortable with the suspicion someone might see their name associated with porn.
The Email Privacy Act, if it passes, will afford email the same level of security enjoyed by medical and other ultra-private data. That will go a long way toward putting consumers’ minds at ease — and easing digital marketers’ jobs.